The Washington Post

The decreasing value of the minimum wage in every state, visualized

Seattle's enactment of a $15 minimum wage is a dramatic increase for the city. (Or, it will be, once it is fully enacted in 2017.) (And if it survives legal challenges.) But as is often pointed out when a minimum wage increase is improved, minimum wages rarely keep up with the devaluation of the dollar.

We decided to visualize that. Using conversion metrics created by Oregon State University and data on the minimum wage from the Department of Labor, here's how the federal minimum wage has evolved over time, in nominal dollars (what the wage was set to that year) and in 2014 dollars.

Every so often, the minimum wage goes up — but it hasn't kept up with the value of the dollar.

The picture doesn't look much different when you do the same calculation for the states. Watch the jump from 2013 to 1968 when the animation below loops.


(We had to make some editorial decisions on the values here. If a state didn't have a minimum wage, for example, we used the federal limit. If it had a range of minimum wages, we used the highest value.)

The highest minimum wage in 2014 dollars was Alaska's $2.10 in 1968 — over $14 today. Or, in other words, slightly less than Seattle residents may see in three years' time. Assuming the dollar's value doesn't change too much.

Philip Bump writes about politics for The Fix. He is based in New York City.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Republicans debate Saturday night. The New Hampshire primary is on Feb. 9. Get caught up on the race.
Heading into the next debate...
Donald Trump returns to the Republican presidential debate stage Saturday night. Marco Rubio arrives as a sudden star, but fending off ferocious attacks from his rivals. Still glowing from his Iowa victory, Ted Cruz is trying to consolidate conservative support, while Ben Carson is struggling to avoid being typecast as the dead man walking.
Play Video
New Hampshire polling averages
Donald Trump holds a commanding lead in the next state to vote.
New Hampshire polling averages
Polling in New Hampshire has typically been volatile after Iowa's caucuses, but Bernie Sanders, from its neighboring state Vermont, has been holding a lead over Hillary Clinton.
55% 38%
Play Video
Upcoming debates
Feb. 6: GOP debate

on ABC News, in Manchester, N.H.

Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Campaign 2016
State of the race

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.